So, you want to start printing your photos. There are many reasons why you should do it, so I totally support you! But now there’s a dilemma: should you invest money in a printer or send your photos to a lab? In this video from Adorama, photographer David Bergman will help you make this decision and discuss the advantages of both.
So, why should you be printing your photos? The reasons are many and they may be different for pros and hobbyists. Those who want to sell prints and those who want to preserve memories may also have different reasons to make prints. But one thing in common for all us photographers is that we should print our work. Having a tangible print in your hands makes for a completely different experience than just looking at it on your computer or phone screen. Having it framed on the wall creates a special feeling, too. And in case you want to generate some revenue from photography, selling prints is just one of the ways to do it.
Now that we know why to print our work, the next question is: where? You can send them to a professional lab or buy a printer and do it yourself, and here are David’s reasons for doing one or the other.
Printing in a lab
The main reason to print your photos in a lab is convenience. The lab employees will help you with the whole process: from selecting the paper and the format to preparing your photo for printing. Also, you can have the prints delivered to your door, which is something most labs offer nowadays. There’s no equipment for you to maintain, and you won’t have a printer taking up space in your home or studio, as photo printers can be quite big. Another perk is that you can print individual images on different papers without having to buy a batch of each type of paper. In addition, the lab will print your work on metal, canvas, acrylics… Even T-shirts and mugs, if you’re into that.
Printing at home
One of the main perks of printing at home is speed. You don’t have to wait for the print to be done and shipped to you, you can do it all when you want and have the print in your hands almost immediately. Of course, you need to prepare the print first, and you can experiment with different looks if you like. When printing at home, you can make as many test prints as you want without having to go back and forth with the lab. David also points out that the cost of printing at home is smaller. Of course, it depends on a lot of different factors, but generally the more prints you make at home the more affordable it’s gonna be. Finally, printing at home gives you control over the entire process. If you like having this kind of control, then getting a printer is definitely something to consider.
Of course, there are pros and cons of each approach, and it all depends on your needs. For example, as I don’t print my photos that often, I just take them to a lab. Also, I usually make small prints only to preserve memories, so I don’t need super-fancy fine art paper nor large formats. On the other hand, if I were to start selling prints, I think I’d prefer having a printer and doing it on my own mainly because of David’s last point: control. But on the other hand, if I find a lab that I trust enough, then I’d gladly give them the control over printing my work.
Do you print your photos? Do you do it at home or rather take them to a lab?